Each year devastating disasters that affect both humans and animals occur in our nation. These include earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornados, fires, hazardous blizzards, chemical spills, and terrorist attacks. Even disasters such as gas leaks and minor flooding can keep you from tending to your ferrets for extended periods of time. Being prepared for any type of disaster can help save the life of your ferrets.
Prepare Your Pets for an Emergency
There are a number of things you can do to prepare for an emergency or disaster. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has developed these suggestions:
- Talk to your veterinarian.
Set up an appointment to talk to your veterinarian about planning for your ferrets and other pets during disasters.
- Assemble a ferret evacuation kit and first aid kit.
- Check all ferret carriers or transport cages.
Make sure they are in good condition, have no sharp edges, and have the following information indelibly printed on them: your name; phone number; address; a description of your ferret (distinguishing marks, age, sex, spayed, neutered, etc.); the name of your ferret; microchip ID or tattoo ID, if any; ferret insurance policy number; and the address and phone number where you or a contact person can be reached if you are not at home.
- Have identification tags (and license and rabies tags, if appropriate) for your ferrets.
Identification should provide your name, home address, a phone number where you can be reached, and an out-of-area phone number of someone with whom you will be in contact during or soon after the disaster/evacuation. If possible, include your veterinarian’s name, location, and phone number. Some of this information could be printed in indelible ink on tape and attached to the back of the tag.
- Assemble veterinary records.
Make photocopies of important veterinary documents to store in your ferrets’ evacuation kit including vaccination records, medical history, important test results (ADV), medical conditions, and medications.
- Assemble proof of ownership information.
Make copies of registration information, adoption papers, proofs of purchase, and microchip/tattoo or other identification information to store in the evacuation kit. List each of your ferrets and their age, sex, color, and other distinguishing characteristics. Keep current photographs of your ferrets in the evacuation kit for identification purposes. Include yourself in some of the photos to help you reclaim your lost ferrets.
- Develop a disaster plan.
Do this for each type of disaster that your area could be affected by, including a hazardous materials spill.
- Develop an evacuation plan for all of your ferrets.
- Make a list of motels in your area that will accept ferrets.
Find out if motels with “no pet” policies will waive them in an emergency. Keep this in your ferret evacuation kit.
- Check with relatives and friends not in your immediate area to determine if they will take your ferrets in the event of an emergency.
- Make a list of places that will take your ferret in.
This includes boarding facilities, veterinary clinics, ferret shelters, or other establishments that would accept ferrets in an emergency.
- Prearrange an evacuation site(s) and emergency shelter arrangements.
Do this for both your family and your ferrets, and remember that Red Cross shelters do not allow animals.
- Keep written directions to your home near your telephone.
This will help you tell emergency responders how to get to your home if you are in a state of panic and in need of rescue, or if a person unfamiliar with your area is the only person in your home during a disaster.
- Keep a list of emergency phone numbers.
This should include cell phone numbers of friends or neighbors you may want to contact in the event of an emergency.
- Identify alternate sources of food and water.
- Keep all vehicles full of gas.
- Keep emergency cash on hand.
What to do with Your Pets When a Disaster Warning is Issued
With some natural disasters, you may have some warning. If so,
- Call to confirm your emergency shelter arrangements (e.g., make motel reservations at a pet-friendly motel).
- Contact all family members to confirm where you are going to meet.
- Confine your ferrets to a cage or carrier so they are easier to find. Do not try to hold onto a ferret during a disaster (earthquake, tornado, etc.). Place the ferret in a carrier, which will be much safer for you and the ferret.
- Check your ferret evacuation and first aid kits to make sure you have all the paperwork and supplies you need.
- Place any frozen or refrigerated ferret food and medication you may need into a cooler with ice packs.
- Attach any collars/harnesses with identification tags.
- If you must leave while a warning is in place, take your ferrets with you. You may not be able to return.
- Evacuate early, or emergency/rescue personnel may not allow you to bring your pets.
What to do if You are Away from Your Pets During a Disaster
Preplace stickers on front and back house doors to notify neighbors, firefighters, police, and other rescue personnel that ferrets are on your property and where to find your evacuation supplies. Provide a list near your evacuation supplies of the number, type, and location of your ferrets, noting favorite hiding spots, in order to save precious rescue time. Note: Situations like these are why we recommend you cage your ferret when you are out of the house. Most emergency personnel will not have time to look for your ferrets, and your ferrets may not come out of hiding with a strange person around.
Designate a willing neighbor to tend to your ferrets in the event that a disaster occurs when you are not at home, and meet you at a pre-arranged location. This person should have a key to your home, be familiar with your ferrets, and know your evacuation procedures and where your ferret evacuation and first aid kits are kept. It is suggested that you provide a signed letter that releases your neighbor from responsibility, should one of your ferrets become injured, and a signed veterinary medical treatment authorization form.
What to do if You Must Leave Your Pet at Home During a Disaster
Often, people have been told to leave their homes for a ‘short time,’ only to find that they cannot return for days or weeks. It is always best to take your animals with you. If you cannot:
- Confine your ferrets in a small room.
- Leave plenty of food and water.
- Cover the corners of the room with newspaper to create bathroom areas.
- If possible, visit your ferret(s) daily until you can return home.
Ferrets depend heavily on their owners for daily care, including fresh food and water, clean litter boxes and other necessities. If your house loses power during the event and indoor temperatures go above 85 degrees, your ferret could suffer from heatstroke and die. Whenever possible, bring your ferrets with you.
What to do if You’re in an Accident
Develop contingency plans in case you are in an accident, become ill, or otherwise are unable to care for your ferrets.
You should have a card on you, in your vehicle, and on the refrigerator that has your name; phone number; address; a description of your ferrets (distinguishing marks, age, sex, spayed, neutered, etc.); the names of your ferrets; microchip IDs or tattoo IDs, if any; pet insurance policy number; and the address and phone number where you or a contact person can be reached if you are not at home. Also include information as to where your ferrets are (including favorite hiding spots), any medications they are taking, the name of your veterinarian, and who to contact regarding them. That contact person should know your veterinarian and know where you keep your ferret’s medications and where medical records are stored.
None of us like to think about being separated from our ferrets, but by careful planning, we can assure their safety and our peace of mind in the event such a situation would occur. Remember to be patient with your ferrets. It may take her up to several weeks to recover from the stress of a disaster/evacuation.